Interpretation and compliance: Q&A with environmental law attorney Kevin Garber

Kevin J. Garber, an environmental attorney at Babst Calland, has been practicing law for 28 years. Mr. Garber, whose concentration is in natural resources and water law, represents both conventional and unconventional mining, oil and gas companies in Pennsylvania. Mr. Garber also is an adjunct professor at both the Duquesne University’s School of Law and the university’s Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences, where he teaches environmental policy, litigation and law.

Q: When it comes to companies and clients you’ve represented, have any blatantly disregarded the law?

A: What I’ve found personally in my practice is that I’m not aware of a company or a client who intentionally and willfully disregards environmental laws. Rather, the questions that come up have to do with interpretation of water laws and environmental laws and what compliance means. The environmental laws have become very complex over 40-plus years. There are overlapping statutes and regulations administered by different agencies. It truly is a maze of regulations these companies need to work their way through.

Q: What’s a project you’ve been involved in that really sticks out?

A: It’s the St. Michael’s Pennsylvania project. This was right at the site of the Johnstown Flood Museum. Beneath it, there is a massive pool of mine drainage called the Berwind Mine pool that was abandoned in the 1960s. A company known as Rosebud Mining Co. put in a plant to treat the abandoned acid mine drainage and clean up the river. The win-win here is that the source of this acid mine drainage is now being treated by a private entity, which is good for the environment and good for the company, because it is able to mine additional coal reserves. It’s a tremendous benefit for the environment and local economy.

Q: Do any of your trials ever get heated?

A: I would say no, usually because the issues that go before a judge and the judges we appear before are from the Environmental Hearing Board. In those contexts, you’re really discussing or trying a more technical issue as opposed to a more emotional issue. The cases usually turn on professional opinions and which expert is deemed to be more credible. It’s not the kind of emotional trial you would see at a common police court.

Q: What is your opinion of the Deer Lakes Park drilling project?

A: I can’t comment on detail, but overall, I think it’s positive that the application to drill was approved. There is the opportunity to generate income from the royalties at the well site, and that can be used at the park itself and other areas around the county. It’s a nice source of revenue to fund improvements at that park.

Madasyn Czebiniak: or 412-263-1269.

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